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Utilizing Appropriate Communication Skills with Alzheimer’s Patients

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Most of us take the ability to communicate for granted: it’s a natural part of everyday life that goes unnoticed until something goes wrong. For those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers, difficulties communicating are among the most challenging aspects of the disease. Alzheimer’s can have a major impact on a person’s ability to express themselves and interact with others. Losing key verbal communication skills can lead to an overwhelming sense of frustration and isolation. Care providers must work hard to understand the needs and feelings of their loved ones suffering from Alzheimer’s.

Although someone may no longer have the ability to speak or process verbal information, their body language, actions, and facial expressions remain meaningful. For example, someone in pain may wince or gesture toward the area that hurts. Pay keen attention and listen for non-verbal vocalizations in order to understand what they are trying to say. It is equally important to be mindful of your own speech. Use simple, short words and phrases when giving instructions and requests. Explain things one step at a time and go as slow as needed. Reduce distractions by turning off the TV or radio, keeping your hands away from your face while speaking, and focusing your entire attention on your loved one. If they are still unable to understand, try rephrasing what you are saying instead of simply repeating the same statement.

As a care provider, it’s essential to remain flexible to the ways in which you can facilitate conversation as your family member’s communication skills decline. One can quickly become disgruntled when conversing with someone who has difficulty with speaking and comprehending. However, it’s essential to remain calm and patient for the entire interaction. Avoid anger, reprimanding, arguing, and disagreeing. These actions can agitate someone with Alzheimer’s and make it even more difficulty for them to communicate. If you need your loved one to do something differently, avoid telling them “no!” or “stop!” – instead use a positive phrase such as “let’s do this.” Here are a few more gestures to follow when communicating: calm and soothing voice tone, affectionate disposition, friendly facial expression, eye contact, and relaxed posture. Conveying kindness and acceptance will make someone with Alzheimer’s feel more comfortable and encourage them to communicate.

Edison Home Health Care is happy to advise and assist you or any loved one who seek appropriate care of Alzheimer’s disease. Give us a call at 888-311-1142, or fill out a contact form and we will respond shortly.

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